How to Use Reminiscence Therapy to Connect with a Dementia Patient at Home?

Free photo senior people confronting alzheimer disease

What is Reminiscence Therapy?

Reminiscence therapy involves talking about past experiences and events to evoke memories and engage people with dementia. It focuses on positive, rewarding memories from the past to promote positive feelings and thoughts in the present. Reminiscence therapy can help improve mood and wellbeing for people with dementia. It provides an enjoyable activity that values their life experiences.

Why Use Reminiscence Therapy?

Reminiscence therapy utilizes the often well-preserved long term memory capacity in dementia. While dementia impairs short term memory function, older memories from childhood, early adulthood or significant life events can remain intact. Focusing conversation on these memories from the past can help the person with dementia to connect and communicate. Past memories, stories and nostalgia are affirming. Reminiscence helps the person share and celebrate their history, maintaining a sense of self and identity.

Getting Started with Reminiscence

It’s easy to start reminiscence therapy at home. Have informal conversations about the past. Ask the person to share stories, anecdotes and memories from earlier in their life. Use photographs, music, scents, foods, old letters or memorabilia as conversation prompts. Listen with interest when they share a memory. Ask questions to encourage them to provide more detail and fully describe their experiences. This shows you value their memories and life history.

Reminiscence Topics to Explore

  • Childhood – school, friends, activities, toys, games, holidays, hometown.
  • Family history and ancestry – relatives, family stories, family customs and traditions.
  • Adult life – career, marriage, parenthood, military service, homemaking.
  • Hobbies – sports, crafts, collecting, reading, dance, creative arts.
  • Life milestones – graduations, weddings, births, anniversaries, holidays.
  • Historical events – where were they when JFK was assassinated or when man landed on the moon?
  • Personal accomplishments – what were they proud of achieving in life?
  • Favorite memories – first kiss, travel adventures, what made them happiest in life.
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Using Tactile Prompts

Have old photos, yearbooks, letters, postcards and memorabilia on hand. Let the person hold and interact with these tangible pieces of their history. Tactile stimulation adds sensory and nostalgic richness to reminiscence. Listen as they describe the meaning behind special treasures.

Extending Reminiscence into Activities

Incorporate reminiscence into activities you do together. Cook a favorite childhood recipe while reminiscing about family meals. Put on music they enjoyed in their youth and dance together as they share memories linked to the songs. Look through old photos and create a memory book or collage about their life. Reminiscence activities provide meaningful engagement and connection.

Remembering the Person Behind the Dementia

Life memories shape personality and identity. Using reminiscence therapy emphasizes the unique, multifaceted person within – their talents, adventures, relationships and personal journey through life. It sends the message to a loved one with dementia that they are so much more than just their diagnosis.

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